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Sarath Kumar Ghosh as Scheherazade: Hindu Heroism in "Indian Nights' Entertainment: The Trials of Narayan Lal"
  • Thursday, April 23, 2015 - 4:30pm to 5:30pm

FBH 330 (Graduate Lounge)

In this paper I examine how, in the early twentieth century, migrant Bengali author Sarath Kumar Ghosh challenged prevailing British stereotypes of the intrinsic effeminacy of Hindu men by providing a rousing vision of Hindu heroism to a diverse, transnational readership in India, Britain, and America. Based upon my readings of the original serialization of Indian Nights' Entertainment in Pearson's Magazine (1902), as well as the subsequent book-length expansions 1001 Indian Nights (1904) and The Verdict of the Gods (1905), I suggest that Ghosh's text is most fittingly characterized as a contemporary Indian romantic epic. Not only did the work address the desires of Ghosh's native Bengali sociopolitical milieu by portraying the exploits of Hindu heroes and heroines against the backdrop of the mythic utopia Bharat, it catered to Western audiences' fascination with the Oriental exotic by providing a story styled after Arabian Nights romances. Having left Bengal to live first in England and then America, Ghosh advanced himself as an exemplary representative of India to Western audiences not just in his fictional and nonfictional works, but also in his very persona. Drawing upon the scholarship of Vinay Dharwadkher, I attempt to argue that Ghosh's cultural ambidexterity enabled him to Orientalize India on his own terms as a part of an overall effort to disrupt unilateral negative views on the colony and to replace them with more sympathetic attitudes.